The forgotten bookshelf: my life flashed before me

Image

Yesterday, I had a surreal experience. While dragging myself round a typical Saturday’s chores, I was waiting for the tumble dryer to complete a 10 minute towel softening stint, when my eye was caught by an adjacent bookshelf. My tumble dryer is located in a cupboard on the upstairs landing – a multi-purpose storage area, home to a mini Chinese laundry, innumerable boxes of family photos, a spare uncomfortable futon for the foolhardy who’ve imbibed one too many, and loads of books gathered over the years, and shelved in no particular order.  Or are they? I was taken aback, and taken back through the years by an apparently random shelf of books which seemed to encapsulate the key periods and interests of my lifetime.

Heidi by Joanna Spyri – the mountains in summer, the wildflowers, the alpine hut, sleeping on a bed of straw.  It was a far cry from a life in a Dundee suburb, one of my very first loves and prompted a detour to visit  Heidi-land while in Switzerland a few years ago.

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon – a school reader, and the first novel to touch an invisible place where roots, primeval attachment and a burgeoning sense of identity lay. One of the few books I have returned to several times over the years.

Across the Great Divide  by Jim Wilkie – a history of professional football in Dundee, evoking memories of pride, excitement and quality time spent at Dens Park with my late father every second Saturday from age 10 to 18.

Everything Elvis by Helen Clutton – the book of facts I could probably have written myself such was my appetite for all things Elvis from the days of Blue Hawaii onwards!  Very useful on quiz nights. Continue reading “The forgotten bookshelf: my life flashed before me”

Quality time

This year, and from now on, instead of moaning about being too busy, I am resolved to use my time more wisely and for better quality outcomes.  For example, I am no longer wearing anything that I don’t like or doesn’t do me any favours – and I don’t care if I have spent good money on an item or if the result is that I am left with very few sartorial options – I am more interested in dressing quickly and not dithering in front of the mirror debating with myself what to wear, trying on and taking off the many impulse buys current residing in my wardrobe.  Likewise, I am not wasting time reading anything unedifying, or poorly written.  With all those wonderful books out there?  It would be madness.

It was reading and revelling in And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini’s latest book, which prompted this latest lifestyle decision.  I had refrained from buying it, and particularly from downloading it on to my Kindle, in the hope and belief that someone (with a big hint from me) would present me with the book for Christmas.  My daughter – and the book – did not disappoint.  I have spent a typically reclusive festive season delighting in the quality of his story-telling.

In contrast, I picked up while shopping in a certain supermarket, Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.  It’s not a bad story.  Two sisters with certain psychic powers, one who is open about the fact, and the other who denies it – but it fails to charm, inspire or engage.

The challenge is to determine just what is the difference in the way these two writers put words on paper.  Does Hosseini write a basic story and then work on improving his use of language and enriching the quality of his exposition?  Or does his mind work such that he produces quality straight off? Sittenfeld can construct a decent story.  So can Mirren Jones. But can either of us create a literary experience I wonder?

We’re currently trying to complete the basic storyline of Never Do Harm.  And then the task will be to transform it into an experience.  That will be a true quality outcome.

Words, glorious words!

At a practice meeting recently, I asked fellow primary care team members to sum up their reactions in one word or phrase to our Practice Safety Questionnaire results. As is often the case, their responses took seconds but spoke volumes –

  • reassured
  • not surprised
  • I’m glad we all think the same. 

I was later reminded of the power of a few well-chosen words when reading and laughing at a scene in Karen Campbell’s novel ‘And This is Where I Am’.

and this is where I am

When Somalian refugee Abdi asks a local Glasgow worthy how business is going, the aforementioned ‘Jimmy’ replies ‘Fair tae pish’!

And closer to home, when a friend enquired by text ‘and how are you?’ I found myself searching for that colourful phrase from my Dundonian grandmother’s rich fund of local dialect: glessy-ersed.

One of the discoveries Mirren and Jones made when collaborating on their first novel Eight of Cups was that Mirren enjoyed writing dialogue, while Jones was drawn more to descriptive prose.

So here’s one for Jones, from Mirren’s current bedtime reading – Your Blue Eyed Boy by Helen Dunmore.

The front door looks as if it’s been shut for ever. The windows peer, reflecting the dark sky, giving nothing out of what happens inside.  A wave of senseless panic makes me fumble the car keys as I fit them into the lock. I won’t look back.

your blue eyed boy

See Mirren’s review on Goodreads for more detail.

Doctors and Nurses: Carrot or stick?

A news item caught my eye this week and saddened my heart.  Doctors and nurses are to be charged and possibly imprisoned for not providing adequate care for patients. How that contrasts with one of my recent reads – The Element – How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson. 

Ken Robinson, The Element

Ken recommends an educational system and ethos which helps individuals discover their gifts, talents, desires, passions and then suggests how to help those develop by joining others of a similar mind (the Tribe) and finding a mentor to guide, challenge and further that person’s development.

No doubt many doctors and nurses are born to perform a caring role.  For some the job may be a real passion, or use of their innate abilities to the full.  How much better then that the working environment stimulates commitment, rewards professionalism and enthusiasm, and uses examples of exceptional practitioners to motivate and inspire.

But no, some people think the big stick works better.  Not only ‘Never Do Harm‘, but if we catch you failing, we’ll make sure you end up bitter, defensive and demotivated.